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Net Neutrality

What to Expect from a Trump FCC

In the wake of a generally-unexpected election outcome, most everyone in the Internet space is grasping to understand the implications of an all Republican-led government and a Trump FCC, on their key issues. 

The purpose of this analysis is to spotlight and explain the most predictable changes to expect. By design, it is not comprehensive, because some issues are naturally less predictable than others.

To be most accurate, this analysis will be high-level and strategic, not detailed and tactical, because the “what” and the “why” here are more predictable at this early stage than the specific “how,” “when,” and “who” -- for obvious practical reasons.

I. Why are some issues very predictable at this early stage?

First, the simple, hiding-in-plain-sight, premise here, is the process/values clarity and predictability that naturally flow from unified one-party control of the levers of government.

This is the fourth time in eighteen years there will be unified one-party control of government: the Democrats had it 1993-94 and 2009-10; and Republicans had it 2003-06 and now in 2017-18. History confirms the high-level strategic predictability of one-party control of the levers of government.

Google Fiber Pivots to Be Wireless ISP & FCC Spectrum Access Administrator

Don’t miss Google’s enduring big wireless ISP ambitions in the midst of all the noise and confusion about the future of Google Fiber.

And also don’t miss Google’s grand ambitions to organize and dominate America’s spectrum-related information via its certification as a key FCC Spectrum Access System Administrator, given how little public attention it has gotten to date.

Google continues to pivot its Internet access ambitions away from deploying capital-expensive fiber technology deployment to deploying much-less-capital-expensive unlicensed wireless access technology, which does not require digging and burying fiber, and which may only use free unlicensed spectrum.

The Key Competitive Facts behind the AT&T-Time-Warner Acquisition

This analysis of the competitive facts underlying AT&T’s acquisition of Time Warner is an outgrowth of my discussion of the acquisition on NPR’s Diane Rehm Show this morning with Cecilia Kang of the New York Times and John Bergmeyer of Public Knowledge. The show can be heard here.

My main point was that the competitive facts are the best friend of this transaction.

I elaborate on that conclusion below.

The key facts lead me to believe the transaction should and will be approved, most likely by the DOJ, because of: the antitrust-benign competitive share facts in all the relevant markets; the antitrust precedents that constrain the DOJ’s ability to successfully challenge in court a vertical merger with these benign shares; and the companies have signaled they understand that if any legitimate competitive concerns arise they can be mitigated successfully with conditions and DOJ oversight of the transaction.    

If officials examine the competitive facts of this acquisition with an open mind and with due process, they’ll discover first impressions can be very misleading.

Appeals Court Blasts Big Deregulatory Hole between FCC & FTC Jurisdictions

FCC and FTC meet the law of unintended consequences.

A Ninth Circuit Court decision overturned an FTC enforcement action against AT&T for “throttling” broadband data speeds by definitively ruling that the FTC did not have any legal jurisdiction over AT&T (and other common carriers) because of the explicit common carrier exemption in the FTC’s core Section 5 legal authority.

Will FCC Allow Competition to Google’s & Facebook’s Advertising Monopolies?

Why is the FCC protecting and facilitating online advertising monopolies?

How can the FCC square its “competition, competition, competition” PR mantra with its regulatory plans for applying new anticompetitive privacy rules only on ISPs and not the “edge” online advertising monopolies -- Google and Facebook?

Simply as it relates to online advertising, the FCC’s new proposed Title II privacy rules would require ISPs with existing advertising businesses, or those planning to enter, compete, and grow in the online advertising market, to be subject to a new and special, privacy opt-in, consumer-consent framework where they alone in the marketplace would have to secure users’ advanced permission to use a majority of their data for advertising purposes.  

America’s FCC-FTC Privacy Divide

[Note: This was submitted to the FCC for Reply Comments on the Title II Privacy NPRM]

The FCC’s Open Internet order and proposed Title II privacy rules divided what was unified.

For privacy, it broke what was working. Confused what was clear. Complicated what was simple. Unprotected what they sought to protect. Created more costs than benefits.

Since the Internet’s beginning the FTC has had privacy authority over information services.

For the decade since the FCC classified cable, wireless, and DSL broadband as an information service, and for the entire smartphone era where consumers became familiar with online privacy issues and regulation, the FTC was the sole unified regulator for protecting American consumers’ privacy.

In a 2014 filing to the FCC, the FTC explained why the FTC was better positioned to protect consumer privacy and data security than the FCC, because the FTC had national direct statutory authority to protect all consumers under: Section 5 -- that proscribes “deceptive” or “unfair” business practices; the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA); and the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, (COPPA).

Did Judge Tatel Tattle on Title II Trouble with Chevron Deference for FCC?

The likelihood improved this week, that the Supreme Court could have an interest in hearing an appeal of the recent USTelecom v. FCC court decision that granted the FCC complete Chevron deference to uphold the FCC’s Title II reclassification of ISPs as utilities. That’s because a new unanimous 8-0 Supreme Court decision suggests that the USTelecom Court may have granted the FCC too much legal Chevron deference on its Title II reclassification. (A hat tip to Gus Hurwitz’ tweet for flagging the Title II relevance of this SCOTUS case and his great legal analysis is here.)    

Top Takeaways from Appeals Court Upholding FCC Title II Internet Order

The DC Circuit Court of Appeals’ 2-1 majority decision to completely uphold the FCC Open Internet Order on every single one of the ~couple dozen argued points, after the court had twice before not granted the FCC complete deference in overturning the FCC on these matters, surprised most everyone given the number and seriousness of the legal challenges put forth, and the selective skepticism the judges signaled at oral arguments.

Given that this total support of the FCC was not anticipated, what does this potentially seminal court precedent mean practically?

For now, the FCC effectively enjoys complete deference from this Court on Open Internet issues.

The majority dismissed every single one of the petitioners’ best legal, process, and constitutional challenges and proactively cauterized them with court assertions that the FCC’s actions were reasonable, supported by the evidence, and compliant with the APA, or that the challenges were unpersuasive.

NetCompetition on Judge Williams Dissent in Appeals Court Upholding FCC

June 14, 2016, Contact:  Scott Cleland 703-217-2407

Judge Williams Dissent in USTelecom v. FCC Lays Bare the Competition Problems With Both the Appeals Court Decision and the FCC’s Open Internet Order

WASHINGTON D.C. – The following may be attributed to Scott Cleland, Chairman of NetCompetition:

“There are big competition policy problems with the DC Court of Appeals 2-1 decision upholding the FCC’s 3-2 Open Internet Order that appear destined for the Supreme Court and Congress to ultimately resolve.”

“The court’s decision appears to effectively grant an FCC majority of three unelected commissioners with largely unfettered power to arbitrarily pick winners and losers in the competitive communications and Internet marketplaces without much administrative due process, explanation, justification, evidence or reasoned analysis.”  

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Q&A One Pager Debunking Net Neutrality Myths